Why no electric locomotives?

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Why no electric locomotives?

Postby SouthernRailway » Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:01 pm

Out of curiosity: the Acela Express route between South Station, Providence and onwards has great track and is fully electrified.

Why isn't the T taking advantage of electrification by using electric locomotives rather than diesel ones? Surely they'd save a few minutes of travel time (and have the other benefits of electrification: lower operating costs, etc.). A quick Internet search shows no plans to buy any.

Is the reason that the T doesn't want even more variety in its fleet? Amtrak issues? Something else?

Thanks.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby Cosmo » Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:17 pm

It's been discussed in other threads on this forum.
To sum it up, the T does not own any repair facilities of it's own, so for them to service electrics they would need to farm all their maintenance for elecs or electric sets out to AMTRAK or, or until they could, build a new electric loco facility of their own.
Also, why maintain a set of locos/sets they could only run on one line now as it is? To make such a move, (I gather/suspect/surmise,) would mean a commitment to going "whole hog" on electrification of, at least, (and eventually) the entire South-side if not (eventually also) the entire system.
Could it be done? Sure... it's certainly not impossible, but there's not that much electric track for them (MBTA) to run on in the Boston area as opposed to, say, NJT or Metro North, each with may times the mileage on multiple routes to many more metro areas that, en toto, make up a much larger percentage of US population or East Coast urban population than the whole of the Boston area. Plus, that is all or mostly (MN and NJT) trackage that was already electrified by NHRR/PRR or NYCS decades ago.
That's my assessment based on the threads I have read here. I welcome any additions, corrections or amplifications.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby TomNelligan » Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:43 pm

As Mr. Cosmo suggests, it would not be economically viable for the MBTA to purchase a small, specialized fleet of electrics that would be confined to one line. Also, equipment assignments are such that a single trainset on the South Side or North Side will typically cover more than one line during the multiple trips it makes in the course of a day. Electrics on the Providence service would eliminate that flexibility. Finally, there is basically zero chance of system-wide electrification in the foreseeable future due to the cost and the state of transit funding in Massachusetts, so this isn't likely to change anytime soon.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby johnpbarlow » Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:58 am

SouthernRailway wrote:Out of curiosity: the Acela Express route between South Station, Providence and onwards has great track and is fully electrified.


Technically, IIRC, not all NEC tracks used by T trains have catenary strung. Only two of the three NEC tracks south of Back Bay have catenary meaning, for example, only one of the T's Ruggles station platform tracks is wired. Provision for future catenary installation has been made here, though, so it shouldn't be a major investment to have all tracks wired.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby chrisf » Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:48 am

johnpbarlow wrote:...only one of the T's Ruggles station platform tracks is wired. Provision for future catenary installation has been made here, though, so it shouldn't be a major investment to have all tracks wired.


All 3 tracks are wired at Ruggles. Still moot since it's only one of the T's lines that runs under wires for its entirety.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby johnpbarlow » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:28 am

chrisf wrote:
johnpbarlow wrote:...only one of the T's Ruggles station platform tracks is wired. Provision for future catenary installation has been made here, though, so it shouldn't be a major investment to have all tracks wired.


All 3 tracks are wired at Ruggles. Still moot since it's only one of the T's lines that runs under wires for its entirety.


I'm looking at Ruggles T Station using Google Maps Satellite view in full zoom and I see catenary hangers for only one of the platform tracks plus hangers for the non-platform track. Did catenary get strung on the 3rd track recently?
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby chrisf » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:02 am

johnpbarlow wrote:Did catenary get strung on the 3rd track recently?


Perhaps within the last two years; I don't really know when.
EDIT: It was likely done to facilitate the tie replacement project which was done in fall 2011, I think.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:15 am

johnpbarlow wrote:
chrisf wrote:
johnpbarlow wrote:...only one of the T's Ruggles station platform tracks is wired. Provision for future catenary installation has been made here, though, so it shouldn't be a major investment to have all tracks wired.


All 3 tracks are wired at Ruggles. Still moot since it's only one of the T's lines that runs under wires for its entirety.


I'm looking at Ruggles T Station using Google Maps Satellite view in full zoom and I see catenary hangers for only one of the platform tracks plus hangers for the non-platform track. Did catenary get strung on the 3rd track recently?


Track 3 is indeed wired and powered between COVE and READ interlocking. Amtrak wired the track before they did the Southwest corridor Tie replacement project in the Summer of '12.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby johnpbarlow » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:33 am

MBTA F40PH-2C 1050 wrote:
johnpbarlow wrote:
chrisf wrote:
johnpbarlow wrote:...only one of the T's Ruggles station platform tracks is wired. Provision for future catenary installation has been made here, though, so it shouldn't be a major investment to have all tracks wired.


All 3 tracks are wired at Ruggles. Still moot since it's only one of the T's lines that runs under wires for its entirety.


I'm looking at Ruggles T Station using Google Maps Satellite view in full zoom and I see catenary hangers for only one of the platform tracks plus hangers for the non-platform track. Did catenary get strung on the 3rd track recently?


Track 3 is indeed wired and powered between COVE and READ interlocking. Amtrak wired the track before they did the Southwest corridor Tie replacement project in the Summer of '12.


OK then! That's good news and I'm happy to be wrong on this! Are the MBTA-used NEC tracks at Attleboro wired as well?

Thanks.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:28 pm

No. The extra 2 tracks around Attleboro are un-wired. So is the T layover yard in Pawtucket.

A lot of Amtrak's NEC Capital Improvements for capacity expansion in T territory (mainly tri-tracking) do involve filling in electrification on the non-wired mainline tracks so they have more congestion management options and better resiliency vs. track outages. So that's proceeding with or without the T. Albeit with much less urgency if the T isn't in a hurry to purchase electrics.


It's a scale thing. Providence Line alone isn't going to cut it. However, RIDOT Providence-Westerly full rollout with the T being the contracted operator is a different story. That will require a boosted pool fleet beyond simply what you'd tack on to an extra schedule because those trains will not be terminating in Boston. Meaning enough extra locos and coaches living in Pawtucket and Westerly layovers to cover shift changes and equipment extras, with stuff only being shuttled back to Boston on a slow churn where a trainset leaving Widett Circle may not return for a day or two when it's on a South County rotation. That does time with their next loco replacement order in 2020 for the F40PH-2C's and any Geeps that may be leftover after this current purge. And given that RIDOT has a stated study preference for electrics on its service plan and will be upping its % ownership stake in the equipment pool...that does offer enough scale and enough other stakeholders that it's likely they'll give electrics strong consideration. Not necessarily a guarantee that they'll buy...but very strong consideration.

The RIDOT rollout will also necessitate some expansion of Pawtucket layover, which can be impetus to wire that up. And Amtrak's NEC Infrastructure Master Plan calls for expansion of Southampton. If the T's diligent about its own storage expansion at Widett Circle with private property taking Amtrak's independent plans for their facility could offer up some capacity and willingness on their part to service the modest number of electric locos. The chafing for space that's been source of all the tension between Southampton tenants will be solved by then.

So...best you can say is that there's a converging point on the calendar around 2020 when the stars line up on equipment procurements and other stakeholders on the corridor start enacting their expansion plans to make a go/no-go at taking that plunge. But today is still way too early for that. The T isn't going to be bumming off the ACS-64 assembly line while it's still hot with a supplemental order like SEPTA and MARC are now considering.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby Elcamo » Sun Nov 10, 2013 6:12 pm

BrandeisRoberts wrote:]

That sounds like it would be a perfect place to send some of the old AEM-7's, at least the -AC's that are in better shape. That could offer the T a lot of bang for their buck with proven equipment on a fairly low-traffic line. It also gives them an opportunity to see how the electrics hold up in terms of service costs, reliability, etc before they think of the kind of larger electrification projects on other lines that they'd need before it would make sense for them to think of buying new locos or EMU's.


I thought the Providence line had the most traffic on the system?
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:01 pm

BrandeisRoberts wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:It's a scale thing. Providence Line alone isn't going to cut it. However, RIDOT Providence-Westerly full rollout with the T being the contracted operator is a different story. That will require a boosted pool fleet beyond simply what you'd tack on to an extra schedule because those trains will not be terminating in Boston. Meaning enough extra locos and coaches living in Pawtucket and Westerly layovers to cover shift changes and equipment extras, with stuff only being shuttled back to Boston on a slow churn where a trainset leaving Widett Circle may not return for a day or two when it's on a South County rotation. That does time with their next loco replacement order in 2020 for the F40PH-2C's and any Geeps that may be leftover after this current purge. And given that RIDOT has a stated study preference for electrics on its service plan and will be upping its % ownership stake in the equipment pool...that does offer enough scale and enough other stakeholders that it's likely they'll give electrics strong consideration. Not necessarily a guarantee that they'll buy...but very strong consideration.

The RIDOT rollout will also necessitate some expansion of Pawtucket layover, which can be impetus to wire that up. And Amtrak's NEC Infrastructure Master Plan calls for expansion of Southampton. If the T's diligent about its own storage expansion at Widett Circle with private property taking Amtrak's independent plans for their facility could offer up some capacity and willingness on their part to service the modest number of electric locos. The chafing for space that's been source of all the tension between Southampton tenants will be solved by then.

So...best you can say is that there's a converging point on the calendar around 2020 when the stars line up on equipment procurements and other stakeholders on the corridor start enacting their expansion plans to make a go/no-go at taking that plunge. But today is still way too early for that. The T isn't going to be bumming off the ACS-64 assembly line while it's still hot with a supplemental order like SEPTA and MARC are now considering.


That sounds like it would be a perfect place to send some of the old AEM-7's, at least the -AC's that are in better shape. That could offer the T a lot of bang for their buck with proven equipment on a fairly low-traffic line. It also gives them an opportunity to see how the electrics hold up in terms of service costs, reliability, etc before they think of the kind of larger electrification projects on other lines that they'd need before it would make sense for them to think of buying new locos or EMU's.


Doubt it. MARC's and SEPTA's leanings have shifted from trying to scoop up good-condition AEM-7AC's to tacking onto the ACS-64 order for some commuter-grade (less overpowered) versions. They looked seriously at it, and it's a more daunting prospect than it originally looked because the fresh parts supply is virtually gone for the AEM-7AC's. The only way to maintain them further is to sift through other units' worn-out parts and find a match that's slightly less worn-out than what it replaces. The rebuilds may have gotten more TLC than the others, but most of the working parts are just as old. Amtrak may have the scale to do that kind of deft sleight of hand in the shop to squeeze extra life out of a small residual fleet, but a commuter rail operator like MARC or SEPTA with only 10 or so electric units each on their rosters don't have the resources to stock a whole warehouse full of secondhand components from scrap units then play mix-and-match for the next decade in the shop keeping their operable units going. If those two existing commuter rail AEM-7 operators have decided that doesn't even work for them with all the AC's about to be retired, it'll never work for an all-new electric operator like the T. And Amtrak wants no business taking on somebody else's engine maint as a subcontractor if it has to play that game, or to be on somebody's speed-dial giving out tips day after day to a newbie operator on how to maintain those old relics.

Hence, MARC and SEPTA are probably buying a few Sprinters and the T will have to hedge its bets for 2020 when the next major wave of equipment replacements coincides with RIDOT ramping up the in-state service.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby deathtopumpkins » Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:09 am

F-Line, the side tracks at Attleboro are wired. I'm sitting in the station on a train right now and all four tracks are most definitely wired.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby DutchRailnut » Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:21 am

anyone who believes the old AEM-7's have any live in them is sadly mistaken, its glue/rubberbands and duct tape holding them in service after many million miles.
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Re: Why no electric locomotives?

Postby FRN9 » Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:36 am

Quick, radical answer to the question.

Merge Shore Line East with MBTA Providence line and run M8s from MetroNorth (future purchase). Have them maintained in New Haven. Rhode Island and FedGov pays money to make it happen. No need for a new facility.
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